(Bloomberg) — Alabama Senator Richard Shelby said Monday he won’t run for re-election in 2022, but he will serve out the last two years in his term.
The top Republican on the powerful Appropriations Committee said he won’t seek a seventh Senate term. He’s served in Congress for 42 years.
“During my time in the Senate, I have been given great opportunity, having chaired four committees: Appropriations, Rules, Banking, and Intelligence,” Shelby said in a statement. “In these positions of leadership, I have strived to influence legislation that will have a lasting impact – creating the conditions for growth and opportunity.”
Shelby, 86, has been a key to several major budget deals, working alongside Democrat Patrick Leahy, who now chairs the committee after the Democrats took the majority this year. Leahy, in a statement Monday, called Shelby among his “dearest friends.”
With Shelby’s pending departure, Maine Senator Susan Collins is next in line to be the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee — a point she emphasized in her own re-election campaign last year.
Shelby has been a reliable ally of Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, who now will have one less incumbent running for re-election as Republicans try to retake the majority in the chamber.
Shelby’s announcement will set off a scramble especially among Republicans for his seat in the GOP-dominated state, where former President Donald Trump won 62% of the vote last November. Shelby is the fourth GOP senator to announce he won’t seek re-election in 2022. Ohio’s Rob Portman, Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey and North Carolina’s Richard Burr have previously said they would retire at the end of their terms.
Shelby was first elected to the House and then the Senate as a conservative Democrat. He was re-elected in 1992, the same year Democrat Bill Clinton was elected president. But Shelby chafed at the fiscal policies of the new administration, and immediately after the 1994 midterm electoral tidal wave gave the Republicans control of the Senate, Shelby switched parties. He has since been re-elected by comfortable margins.
Shelby has been a major benefactor of the state’s military and space industries and has been a leading opponent of the Export-Import Bank. The former Banking chairman also worked to roll back Dodd-Frank banking regulations on smaller banks.
With his departure, the state will lose one of the most senior members of the Senate representing its interest. The state’s other senator, Tommy Tuberville took office in January after trouncing Democrat Doug Jones in the November election.
Jones — the first Democrat in the U.S. Senate from Alabama in more than 20 years — won a 2017 special election for the seat previously held by Jeff Sessions. In that election, Shelby said he would not vote for the Republican nominee, Roy Moore, who had been accused by a number of women of inappropriate conduct. Moore later blamed Shelby for his defeat.
(Updates with Leahy statement, background beginning in the fourth paragraph. A previous version corrected that Shelby served 42 years in Congress.)
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